Howell Ephemera Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Howell ephemera collection, 1835-1945, containing handbills, prospectuses, circulars, advertisements, texts of addresses, annual reports, printed letters, certificates, membership cards, leaflets and other ephemera collected by George Howell for his own research and to document the late Victorian period covering various topics and organisations, including: advertising; America; Associations (including the Decimal Association, Working Men's Club and Institute Union, National Sunday League and the Sunday Society); banks, insurance, housing (including Post Office Savings Banks, Housing Associations, Dwelling Committee, insurance companies, building societies and pensions); bills, acts (including temperance and licensing bills, the Mutiny Act, employer's liability, the Compensation for Injuries Bill, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, the Contagious Diseases Act, the Arbitration Act, 1872, and the Master and Servants Act, 1867); church, religion (including trade unions and the church, and St Mary, Newington); Chartism; community welfare (including children's welfare); education (including the National Industrial Education League, the London School Board Policy Defence Committee and the National Association for the Promotion of Technical Education); demonstrations (including the Great Reform Demonstration, 1884); elections; financial reform (including the Bimetallic League and bimetallism); international affairs (including the International Arbitration and Peace Society, the Eastern Question Association and the National Conference on the Eastern Question); the International Working Men's Association; Ireland; land, property (including the Land Tenure Reform Association); parliamentary reform (including the National Reform Association, the National Reform Union, the National Reform League, the National Democratic League, the Representative Reform Association, the Labour Representation Committee and the Labour Representation League); newspapers, journals; miscellaneous subjects (including the Channel Tunnel and railways); poems, songs; political parties (including Libreral clubs and associations); trade unions (including tailors, miners, agricultural labourers, book binders and vellum binders); trade councils; women (including women's suffrage, the Married Women's Property Act, marriage with a deceased wife's sister, the Marriage Law Amendment Bill and the Marriage Law Defence Union) (1835-1945).

Administrative / Biographical History

Born, 1833, Wrington; education was both sporadic and rudimentary, ending before he was twelve; at the age of eight he began working as a ploughboy, later moving to assist his father as a mortar boy and, in 1847, he became apprenticed to a Wrington shoemaker; largely self-taught, he was to become a voracious reader, notably of religious tracts and radical periodicals; enrolled in a local Chartist group, 1848, and underwent conversion to Wesleyan Methodism and taught at Sunday school. At the end of his apprenticeship in 1851, Howell moved first to Weston-super-Mare and then to Bristol, finding employment as a shoemaker and becoming involved in a Methodist improvement society and the local YMCA; returned to the building trade, due to the move of his parents back to Bristol, 1853; moved to London, 1855, and rose to the position of deputy foreman and began to become involved in politics spurred by acquaintance with former Chartists and political exiles, including Mazzini, Kossuth, and Marx. Following the nine-hours dispute in the building trades (1859-1862), Howell joined the London order of the Operative Bricklayers' Society where he came into contact with the other London trade unionists including William Allan, Robert Applegarth, Edwin Coulson, George Odger, and George Potter; through his involvement with the bricklayers' strike committee, Howell played a major part in the reorganization of the union on amalgamated principles and launched the Operative Bricklayers' Society Trade Circular in 1861; following leadership disputes with Edwin Coulson, ending with his resignation from the London order, and blacklisting by London builders, Howell moved to Surrey, and worked as a foreman with a former employer, a position he retained until he abandoned bricklaying for radical politics in 1865; elected to the executive of the London Trades Council, 1861, becoming secretary and serving in that position until July 1862 when ill health and Coulson's enmity forced him to resign; whilst serving as secretary, he came into regular contact with the General Neapolitan Society of Working Men, affirming the solidarity of the London Trades Council with Italian nationalists; became a member of the National League for the Independence of Poland in 1863, the Garibaldi Reception Committee in 1864, and the International Working Men's Association from 1864 to 1869; between 1865 and 1869, served as secretary of the Reform League, the first national organization to mobilize urban artisans for franchise reform since the Chartist campaign. During the 1868 general election he administered a special fund to mobilize new working-class voters on behalf of Liberal candidates in marginal constituencies. In 1869 he launched an abortive Liberal Registration and Election Agency with funds provided mainly by Samuel Morley and James Stansfeld and he was closely involved with the futile effort of the Labour Representation League to devise an arrangement whereby Liberals would endorse working-class candidates in selected boroughs in return for league support for official Liberals elsewhere; between 1868 and 1874 Walter Morrison hired him as paid secretary of the Representative Reform Association, which advocated proportional representation; he was also paid secretary of the Plimsoll and Seamen's Fund Committee from 1873 to 1875 and financial agent for the Land Tenure Reform Association. In addition he chaired the Working Men's Committee for Promoting the Separation of Church and State and served on the councils of both the National Education League and the Liberation Society. Between 1870 and 1871 Howell launched the Adelphi Permanent Building Society to provide money to enable workers to purchase homes; attended the Birmingham trades union congress as unofficial representative of the Conference of Amalgamated Trades, 1869, and emerged as secretary of the parliamentary committee of the TUC, 1871, using his office to promote the repeal of the Master and Servant Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1871. After retiring from the TUC, Howell never again attained his former eminence in radical and trade union politics; served successively as secretary of London school board election committees and as parliamentary agent of the Women's Suffrage Committee but failed to obtain an appointment as a school or factory inspector. Unable to secure regular employment, he turned increasingly to writing as a source of income, contributing to the labour journal the Bee-Hive in the 1870s and publishing A Handy Book of the Labour Laws, a guide to recent legislation in 1876. He also published an interpretive study of trade unionism, The Conflicts of Capital and Labour (1878). During this time, Howell also served as London business agent for a Manchester coal merchant and, in 1881, briefly edited the labour weekly Common Good. Howell made several attempts to enter parliament, contesting Aylesbury in 1868 and 1874 and Norwich in 1871, before becoming MP for North-East Bethnal Green in 1885 which he held until 1895. While in Parliament Howell continued to rely on journalism for his livelihood, although he was also briefly employed by the National Home Reading Union. He published Trade Unionism New and Old in 1891 and, after 1895, he withdrew entirely from political life, devoting himself to writing. His biography of Ernest Jones, serialized in the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle in 1898, never appeared in book form. His final work, Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and Labour Leaders, was published in 1902; died 1910.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged into file ordered alphabetically by subject.

Conditions Governing Access

OPEN

Acquisition Information

Deposited at the Bishopsgate Institute by Howell with his personal papers at his death in 1910. Subsequently added to by generations of librarians at the Bishopsgate Institute.

Other Finding Aids

Copy of handlist available in Library Reading Room.

Archivist's Note

Entry compiled by Stefan Dickers.

Conditions Governing Use

Documents cannot be photocopied at present. Digital photography (without flash) is permitted for research purposes on completion of the Library's Copyright Declaration form and with respect to current UK copyright law.

Related Material

The Bishopsgate Institute also holds a substantial book and pamphlet collection and the personal papers of George Howell. The Labour History Archive and Study Centre at Manchester University hold papers and correspondence, 1906-1907 (LP GC), and the National Co-operative Archive hold correspondence between Howell and George Jacob Holyoake, 1866-1898 (MM/96636/1-12).